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Griz mauling victim says bears, people can coexist

Jul 27, 2012 - The Associated Press

CLARK -- Three years have passed since Jerry Ruth nearly lost his life in a chance encounter with a grizzly bear while hiking through tall Wyoming sagebrush in a scenic valley.

That day, Ruth surprised a sow with three cubs. The encounter was quick, leaving the sow dead and Ruth recovering at a Billings hospital with a broken jaw, a punctured lung and numerous other injuries.

While the story could very well have ended on that hot July day, it did not. The three cubs orphaned in the incident are doing well at the Memphis Zoo, and Ruth, who has recovered from his injuries, is working to make Clark a safer place for grizzlies and people alike.

"I've got a bear-saver trash can ordered for a property I'm taking care of on Line Creek," Ruth said recently. "I'm a little sensitive about that. It's primarily a safety issue."

Looking back on his encounter with the grizzly three years later, Ruth said the bear was only doing what bears do when it attacked in defense of its three cubs. He believes both he and the bear were put into a situation in which neither wanted to be.

While he can't change the past, he said, he can direct the future. Ruth has turned his experience into a public-awareness campaign and is working to help residents of Clark safely coexist with the area's grizzlies by installing one bear-proof trash bin at a time.

"I took the steps to secure that bear bin and put some pamphlets out to help educate people, to make them more bear aware," Ruth said. "Whatever I can do, whether it's public awareness with my situation or installing a bear bin, I'd like to see it happen."

The issue of grizzlies entering the Clark community in search of food scraps has drawn more attention in recent months. Grizzly sightings are up in the area, possibly due to dry conditions in the forest, some experts believe.

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